Thursday, August 25, 2016


I have moved my blog to  New posts are published there and will soon redirect to that site.

Thank you for visiting and I look forward to your comments on the new site.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Recipe: Crab Sambosa

This is one of my favorite foods to serve for guests as a snack or appetizer. Just about everyone loves it, and other than the wrapping, it is super simple.

Sambosa is an Arabic word meaning the same as the Indian word Samosa. It is also known as Sambusak.

I prefer egg roll wraps (or spring roll wraps) over filo dough because it is much easier to work with. The downside is egg roll wraps do better with frying than baking. I use coconut oil for frying so I feel good about it.

Crab Sambosa

1 12-oz package imitation crab, cut into pieces (or fresh crab meat, flaked)
1 8-oz package cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 small bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 small onion (white, yellow, or purple), finely chopped
2 1-lb egg roll wraps
oil for frying (coconut or grape seed oil are my favorite choices)

Sealing liquid: flour paste (touch of flour mixed with water), egg whites, melted butter, or even just water.

Add finely chopped onions to 1 tbsp oil. Cook onions about 1 minute until started to turn transparent. Add green onions, saute for 1 minute. Add cut crab meat. Crab meat basically melts, so the smaller the crab meat is when added to the pan, the faster it all mixes together. Add cream cheese. Again, the smaller the cream cheese is, the faster it all mixes together. Stir until everything melted and mixed with cream cheese. 

Remove from heat.

The egg roll wraps come in squares. Cut them down the middle to make rectangles. 

Place a small spoon of mixture in bottom left corner, fold left corner up, forming a small triangle. Fold right corner up and left, forming another small triangle. Use a small spoon back to spread sealing liquid on top end. Fold over again toward top end, then fold wet end over to seal sambosa triangle.

Heat oil until 350 degrees, or high heat, 

Fry them in oil until golden-brown.  About 1 minute.

Drain on a paper towel.

  • Makes about 60 sambosas, 1 & 1/2 egg roll packages.
  • You can fry immediately (after you have made several), refrigerate for later, or freeze for much later. 
  • Refrigerating does help keep them sealed once you start frying them. 
  • Thaw slightly before frying if you freeze them. About 5 or 10 minutes is enough.
  • They are best served hot. They are also good once they cool, but placing them in a container for travel may result in being less crispy - but still excellent!
  • Garlic can be added with onion.
  • Adding Garam Masala spice will give them a Middle Eastern flavor.
  • Adding Curry, Cumin, Tumeric, Ginger Paste, and/or Cilantro will give them an Asian flavor.
  • Adding Ginger and/or Green Chilies will make them spicier.
  • Can make 1 egg roll package and mix left over mixture in pasta for a great meal too.

Any filling can be used. I often use whatever left-overs I have that are soft enough. I mashed a baked chicken and vegetable left-over and made sambosas from that. The Bolognese Sauce would have been really good too. As long as the food is soft and tasty starting out, it will be excellent in sambosas. 

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, keynote speaker, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to over 15 countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Recipe: Spicy Chicken Vegetable Soup with Pasta

Chicken soup is such a versatile food. It is good when you're sick, but just as good when you're well - and unlike many kinds of soup and stews, it is not just cold weather food.

One of my favorite restaurant chicken soups is Carrabba's Spicy Sicilian Chicken Soup. After much experimentation, I have created my own version. Sometimes I like to mix it up, so I have added variation ideas in the "Tips" section.

Spicy Chicken Vegetable Soup with Pasta


3 celery ribs
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 small yellow onion (or 1/2 large)
1 medium potato, peeled
1 (14 oz) can stewed & peeled tomatoes
1 chicken breast
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped (or 1 tsp minced)
4 qts chicken broth
1 tbsp creole seasoning
2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh rosemary, removed from stem
1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, remove from stem

2 cups pasta cooked separately (any pasta - I prefer elbow or shells)


Dice celery, carrots, onion, potato into 1/4 inch pieces (or smaller). Chop canned tomatoes into 1/4 inch pieces (or smaller), reserving juice.  (Can also be done when shredding chicken later)

Place vegetables, tomatoes with their juice, herbs, and vinegar, garlic into crockpot.

Add whole chicken breast.

Add chicken stock, creole seasoning, and pepper.

Cook on high for at least 3 hours, can be left on low all day or all night.

Remove chicken to cool. Use forks to shred chicken. Place shredded chicken back into the crockpot. Stir.

Boil pasta separately.

Spoon a small portion of pasta into individual bowls, top with chicken soup.



  • Serves 2 as a meal. Serves 4 as an appetizer.
  • Best served on the day after making.
  • Can be cooked in a stock pot instead of crockpot - Bring to boil over low heat, partially cover pot and simmer 2 hours (may need to skim foam).
  • Mash some of the vegetables before serving (or before refrigerating) to make soup thicker.
  • Adding pasta directly to soup pan will cause the pasta to become too soft when storing overnight. It is better to add pasta to individual bowls. But on the second day, you can cook pasta in soup being warmed, or separately.
  • Bell pepper can be added to soup, but it will slightly change the flavor. I prefer red, orange, or yellow peppers. Green changes the flavor too much.
  • Other vegetables can also be added: zucchini, mushrooms, cauliflower, etc (smaller chopped the better).
  • Creole seasoning substitution: salt, red pepper (crushed), black pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder.
  • Poultry herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) can be omitted.

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, keynote speaker, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to over 15 countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Questioning the Little Things

My husband and I were at the grocery store picking up supplies for my slow cooker spaghetti sauce. As I reached for the ground beef, my husband told me he wanted some of the meat for breakfast. I said okay and continued shopping.

On the way home my husband told me he wanted to cook breakfast - well, the meat and eggs anyway.

I said okay.

After we got up, he said he needed a pan, a bowl, oil, and a wooden spoon.

I got the supplies out for him.

We have been married almost two decades and he has never cooked.

He took the meat and eggs from the refrigerator, cracked the eggs into a bowl, then added a splash of lemon juice and coconut-almond milk.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Recipe: Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

I love spaghetti with bolognese sauce. My mom would simmer it for hours and it was so good you just wanted to eat it with bread.

I never order spaghetti from restaurants because it is just not as good.

First, it is usually sweet. What's up with that? Spaghetti sauce should not be sweet.

Second, it is usually either bland or just okay, not tasty like my mom's.

I have experimented over the years with different ways of cooking it, and I finally found the one my husband and I just can't get enough of.

Once you taste bolognese sauce cooked in a slow cooker, (or at least simmered on the stove for hours) you will never be satisfied with canned, bottled, restaurant, or quick sauces.

No joke.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Tormented Characters of Boardwalk Empire

When I watch television or read a book, I really get into the characters. Like I know them personally. I can feel their anger and their joy, but I also analyze how I feel about their feelings and reactions - whether I agree with them or would do things differently.

The downside is that I have a difficult time being entertained 'with my brain off.'

For example, I have never been able to watch the show, Friends. From the beginning, I was constantly frustrated with the episodes - the situations and the characters. I have always said, "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"

My sister, on the other hand, loved the show. She always said it was a show she could just watch without having to think about anything.

Still, even with the constant brain engagement, one benefit is that I learn about myself and the world - as in what kind of person I want to be in the world - without having to directly experience all situations myself.

Just like observing real people, I use every opportunity to explore life through fictional characters.

Seeing different perspectives. Thinking about what logical reason a person would act a certain way. Wondering what drives people, or holds them back. All of these thoughts also increase my empathy and sympathy for those facing problems I have never faced.

Last year I watched the series Boardwalk Empire. While watching it, I was really into the story and characters.

This year I have been watching it again with my husband. Watching it a second time has been very interesting. This time, because I already know how things will happen, I am spending more time focusing on why the characters are doing things. What makes them tick. What life experiences formed their decision-making process.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Does Art Imitate Life or Does Life Imitate Art?

A common question that I have heard all my life is, "Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?" This question usually comes up when people are discussing whether television creates society's behavior or if television is a reflection of society's behavior.

After years of contemplation about this question, I have decided it is both.

Beverly Hillbillies
Leave It To Beaver was not a reflection of life in the 1950's - though it was likely a reflection of what many in society wished life was like, the idea of 'perfection.' It was also both entertainment and educational because it included lessons and discussions of those lessons.

Beverly Hillbillies was not a reflection of life in the 1960's and 1970's, but among the craziness, lessons were everywhere - and Jed Clampett was the voice of reason that often summed up the lesson at the end.

Nor were Eight is Enough and The Brady Bunch a reflection of life in the 1970s and 1980s - though they were a reflection of both an idea of 'perfection' and the changing family dynamics. Single parents were becoming more common, as were blended families. Again, they were entertainment as well as educational due to lessons and discussions of the lessons.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Art of Motivation - Know Thyself

I made a plan that I would learn something new at least three times per year.

Just to recap, in addition to my current goal of publishing my book, I have added kickboxing, motorcycle license, and for the third one ... I was not quite sure.

As I considered various things I could learn (musical instruments, how to read music, singing lessons, dance lessons, etc), I remembered Arabic.

My husband is originally from Iraq. His native language is Arabic though he is fluent in English. His family's native language is Arabic, and though most of them can also speak English, his father cannot. 

After seventeen years of marriage, I can understand some Arabic. I know a lot of words, and if I pay really close attention, I can usually understand the subject and maybe what is being said about the subject. However, I cannot translate fast enough to really communicate - not enough vocabulary to understand everything and I cannot remember words fast enough to respond in Arabic. 

I have taken Arabic classes twice.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Fifth Agreement During Sixth & Seventh Grade

Most people are familiar with the four agreements within the book The Four Agreements, even if they have never read the book.  I heard about the book and concept for years before I actually read the book. Once I read the book, I realized I had been mistaken in thinking I understood the four agreements. I clearly didn't.

There is also a fifth agreement, described in the book The Fifth Agreement. Though the fifth agreement itself has a lot of pieces, two powerful pieces are the power of doubt and learning to listen. The idea that we should question everything, be skeptical of everything, realize almost everything is an opinion.

Then learn to listen and wonder about the 'truth' of everything before accepting it as your 'truth.' 

Beliefs and 'Truth,'' in the context of both books, is not just about belief in a higher power, but more about what we believe about ourselves, others, and how the world works. 

I thought about the fifth agreement when I reflected on my sixth and seventh-grade years.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Recipe: Sunnyside Salad Dip

While I was preparing dinner, my husband came to me with his iPad, showed me a picture of a kitchen appliance, and asked if I had it. It was a food processor. I told him I did.

He told me he wanted to use it, so I got it out of the cabinet.

My husband, whose culinary skills have only ever extended to boiling eggs and making loose leaf tea, had been inspired by a cooking video on Facebook and wanted to prepare a dip as our salad.

Our dinner always includes a salad, a meat, and a vegetable. Sometimes we exchange the salad for a soup, or just add a soup.

He named it Sunnyside Salad Dip. The name came out of nowhere, but here is what he created.

Sunnyside Salad Dip

1 can chickpea/Garbanzo beans, drained
1 avocado
1 lemon, just the juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Pour can of chickpeas in food processor. Add peeled avocado. Add juice of a lemon. Add salt & pepper. Turn on food processor until ingredients  are smooth.

Serve with crispy pita bread.

I added paprika for presentation.

It appears we have a chef in the making.

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, keynote speaker, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to over 15 countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Getting Out of the Routine Funk

Lately, I have been feeling somewhat bored - like my life has become routine. I fully admit my life is anything but routine by the standards of others, but for me, it has felt that way.

After I get up in the morning, I have breakfast and coffee with my husband. Then I spend the day working on legal cases for clients, talking to clients (legal and non-legal), researching, blogging,  writing my book, tweeting, and checking out Facebook.

By 4pm I am cooking dinner because we like to eat around 5pm. 

In the evenings, after cleaning up after dinner, I pay bills, and usually go back to computer work - cases, research, writing, etc. - or read a book.

Occasionally we go out to eat or to the movies, maybe even visit friends together or separately. Sometimes I break things up by reorganizing something in my house - I have an obsession with small baskets and everything having its place, everything separated by type and located for convenience. Absolutely no junk drawers in my house. 

Still, I have felt the excitement waning. I get up with slightly less "pep in my step" than usual and don't have to convince myself to put what I'm doing aside to go to bed at night. 

Initially, I thought maybe I needed a trip or new experience. My husband and I love to travel and I often think of new experiences for us to do together - like skydiving a few years ago.

But I realized I neither wanted a small spark nor to become dependent on "getting away" for my re-energizing. 

Then I began focusing on books and videos about "becoming unstuck." Mostly they talk about finding your passion and setting life goals. 

They are always great topics, always with some new tidbit to consider - but I know my passions, have set my life goals, and regularly take the steps toward those goals. 

So I started thinking of the small goals or projects I could create to bring back my excitement. Projects always get me excited - even smalls ones. 

At first, I could not really think of anything I wanted to do beyond what I am currently doing.  

So I decided to make a list of unique skills I already have.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Recipe: Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

My husband decided he wanted to eat at least three radishes every day, so I needed to figure out more ways to use radishes than just in a salad. This is the result of a successful experiment:

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

3 baby red potatoes, sliced thin
3 radishes, sliced thin
1 zucchini, sliced thin
3 baby bell peppers, sliced thin (strips, or rounds)
1 baby red onion, halved, sliced thin (strips)
3-5 baby tomatoes, whole
1 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp grape seed oil (or avocado oil)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp fresh or dried mint
1 cup orzo, rice shaped pasta
Feta cheese (optional, only if serving at room temperature or chilled)

1 lemon, squeezed for juice
1/4 cup grape seed oil (or avocado oil)
1-2  tbsp yogurt (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss the zucchini, radish, bell peppers, onion, potatoes, and tomatoes with the oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Spread vegetables with oil onto large sheet pan (I prefer to cover pan with Reynold's wrap for easy cleanup.) Pour chicken broth over vegetables to cover the bottom of the pan.

Roast 20 minutes. Turn vegetables with a spatula. Roast an additional 10 to 15 minutes until potatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Mix dressing with pasta and vegetables.

Serving Options:
Serve immediately, hot
Let cool to room temperature, add feta cheese.
Refrigerate and serve cold, add feta cheese

The additional roasting time will depend on how thin the potatoes and radish are sliced (very thin, shorter time; thickness increases time)
Extra virgin olive oil can be substituted for grape seed/avocado oil
Orzo cooked in chicken broth has more flavor than cooked in water
Yogurt can be omitted - 2 tbsp yogurt adds more flavor than 1 tbsp

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Misunderstanding The Four Agreements

For years I heard about The Four Agreements but I never read the book. I always assumed I did not need to because I read the four agreements and 'understood' them. When I finally read the book, I realized I did not understand the four agreements at all.

Without having read the book or understood the concepts, I had intuitively integrated the concepts into my marriage since the beginning - but only my marriage.

Be Impeccable With Your Word

My interpretation of 'impeccable with your word' was: 'speak the truth,' 'keep your word,' 'do what you say, and say what you do.'

Once I read the book, I realized my complete misunderstanding.

I now understand the agreement actually means 'use words for good, avoid using words in negative ways against yourself or others.' That is a simple explanation because the book's description goes even deeper than that - but it's a start.

While discussing the concept with a friend, Tara, she said maybe it should be 'speak impeccably.' I agree. Funny how using the same words in a different order gives the phrase a completely different meaning.

Words as concepts, our 'agreement' of those concepts, and our ultimate power to change our interpretation of ourselves and life by reinterpreting our 'agreements' of what words mean, is actually the real point of the book.

But my misunderstanding did not stop at the first agreement.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Recipe: Mediterranean Orzo Salad

My husband loves salads but I cannot eat the same thing for more than two days in a row, so I am always experimenting with different salad combinations.

Here is my latest twist on what we call a salad. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

3 cups cooked orzo, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup feta cheese, cubed
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup basil, freshly chopped (half amount for dried)
3 tbsp vinegar (balsamic or rice)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or avocado oil)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (optional)


Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Whisk or stir.

Add orzo, cheese, peppers, onion, tomato, basil, and dressing. Toss.

Cover and refrigerate until serving or for up to 24 hours.

Serves 4.

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, keynote speaker, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to over 15 countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Creating Barriers to God

Nadeen, a woman I know, was considering whether to have a second child. Her struggles were normal: Can we afford it? Do I have the energy for two? Will I love both equally or enough?

Nadeen wanted to ask God for guidance.

As a Muslim, she wanted to perform a special supplication, called Salat Istikharah, to call on God to guide her in the decision.
However, Nadeen did not pray regularly, so she was unsure whether she could perform an extra supplication asking for God's guidance.

Nadeen contacted someone she considered knowledgeable about Islam and asked whether she, while not praying regularly, could still perform the special supplication.

Nadeen was told she could not perform the extra guidance supplication prayer because she did not pray regularly. 

She was told she had two options:

1) successfully pray regularly for a period of time, or
2) ask someone else who is practicing all the rituals in Islam to perform the supplication on her behalf.

When Nadeen shared the story with me I was completely floored - shocked to my very core, really.

I will state without hesitation or reservation that the person Nadeen asked may have knowledge about Islam, but completely lacks understanding of Islam or even God.

There are several very concerning issues with the response:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fifth Grade: A Confusing Year

My fifth-grade year the school had added a new building. Half of fifth-grade was to be in the middle school building, next to the high school buildings, and the other half would share the building with elementary classes. The middle/high school buildings were completely separate from elementary - about half a mile away.

I really wanted to move to the high school location.

Unfortunately, I was assigned to Mrs. Lahnam's class, one of the teachers staying in the elementary building. 

But I was still excited because I would be in Mrs. Lahnam's class.

I already knew Mrs. Lahnam - her daughter and my sister were friends. My sister really liked Mrs. Lahnam and was one of her students during her fifth-grade year, so I knew I would enjoy Mrs. Lanham's class too. 

I was in for a surprise.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Recipe: Mubeen Salad

Early in my marriage, we were invited to dinner with some friends. I had met the hostess wife but we were not close friends, though we had friends in common - hence the invitation.

It was a nice dinner, good food, good company. Very enjoyable. The couple lived in Chandler while we lived in Phoenix, about a half hour drive - fairly normal for Arizona. 

The husband, who I had not met before, had made a dessert that I loved, so I asked for the recipe. He did not know a name for the dessert, so I named it after him - Mubeen Salad. 

It is a beautiful dessert for the warm summer months - cool and refreshing. Not the healthiest choice, but then it is dessert, so I never consider dessert as needing to be healthy as we don't have dessert all the time. 

Mubeen Salad

1 large tub Whip Cream
1 can condense milk
1 can mandarin oranges, crushed & drained (alternatively peaches or pineapple)
1/2 cup nuts, pecans or almonds

Combine all ingredients

Single fruit or combined fruits are good
I prefer almonds, slivered, but my husband loves pecans, pieces

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, keynote speaker, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to over 15 countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Third and Fourth Grade Experiences and Lessons

While third grade was fairly uneventful, fourth grade had a bit more activity.

The Replacements

When we moved to Bryant Elementary, I remember two other kids that we went to school with. Todd and Aziza. While we lived in Alexander, they lived in Shannon Hills. Both were in the Bryant School district. Todd was in my class level and Aziza was in my sister's.

Thier significance was that my dad had remarried, and they were my dad's step-children.

Each Christmas we would go to my dad's house for Christmas. He would have a huge tree with lots of wrapped gifts underneath. We usually went for Christmas Eve to open the gifts.

He or his wife would hand each of us a gift or two, while Todd and Aziza would be given several gifts. Our gifts would usually be something small while their gifts would be name-brand clothes and the latest toys.

We noticed the difference.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recipe: Bean & Pasta Salad

My husband and I practice a gluten-less lifestyle, so I buy gluten-free pasta. Neither of us has a gluten or wheat intolerance, unlike my niece, but we do feel gluten-free products leave us feeling more comfortable and less bloated after eating.

Fortunately, gluten-free kinds of pasta are more available now and are of better quality. When we visited Italy, we were told all Italian pasta are gluten-free because Italian pasta is less processed than US pasta. I have no idea if that is true, but we still focus on labeling in the US.

We gave up our microwave in 2011 when we moved to our new home, so we also attempt to avoid processed foods, mostly. A lot of foods I will make from scratch, such as Italian dressing and tomato sauce, and then only buy 'packaged' foods that have ingredients listed on the label that we can both read and recognize.

My husband's favorite foods are soups and salads, while my favorite foods are vegetables - like real vegetable dishes, not just salads. As a result, most of our meals feature these items, usually more than one.

Bean & Pasta Salad

3 cups (7 1/2 ounces) uncooked medium pasta shells
2/3 cup Italian dressing
1/2 cup Feta (cubed not crumbled)
1 medium carrot, shredded (1 cup)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)
1 can (19 oz) red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can (15 oz) chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz) organic diced tomatoes with Italian herbs or stewed tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cook and drain pasta as directed on package
Toss pasta and remaining ingredients. Serve warm or cold.

Other types of beans also work in this salad, which can be a side or main dish.
Oil & Vinegar alone or with Italian seasoning can be substituted for the Italian dressing
Pasta shells should be cooked only to al dente
Dish is even better when allowed to marinate in refrigerator a few hours or the next day
Approximately 6 servings

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, keynote speaker, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to over 15 countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Second Grade: New School, New Challenges

During my second-grade year, we moved from Little Rock to Alexander, Arkansas. My mother had married my step-father and they "wanted a better life" by moving out of the city.

Interesting tidbit, they made a house trade deal with another family. They took our house and we took theirs. I think somebody had to pay the other a little on top, I think it was us. I thought the concept was very innovative at the time. I still think so.

Our house on Eddie Lane was a red brick house with a carport, a front yard, and a chain-link fence backyard. It had three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a large den along the back of the house.

Alexander House

Our house in Alexander was a double-wide trailer with brown siding, permanently attached to brick blocks with brown skirting on the bottom. It had four bedrooms, two full baths, and no den. The original address was Rt 2 Box 306E, Alexander, Arkansas. That is not the address now and I am not sure what it is.

The house also looks much different now, it has been painted white, and is way smaller than I remember. LOL.

It had a huge grass front yard with a long gravel driveway from the road to the side of the house. The backyard was surrounded by a chainlink fence. We had a sandbox, pool (surrounded by a tall wooden fence), an orchard, a chicken coop, a dog pen, and a huge field also separated by a fence.

The orchard included three apple trees, a peach tree, a pear tree, and a cherry tree, as well as grape and strawberry vines along the fence.

The chicken coop had chickens, ginny pigs (small chickens), a rooster, a male turkey, and a row of rabbit pins.

For a time, when my dad returned to live with us for a while, we had Beagles in the dog pin for hunting.

The large attached field was divided into two sections. The back section was just woods. The front section had goats and pigs as well as a vegetable garden at various times.

To the right side of the house was a dirt road leading to two houses behind us. On the other side of the road was a forest owned by Reynold's Aluminum Plant. It was not fenced off and we often played there. For some unknown reason, the forest in the back of our field was scary but the huge forest next to us was not.

The forest across the dirt road is now full of houses while the dirt road has been paved and extended.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Concept of Pain in My Early Years

I remember getting my ears pierced. I do not remember my exact age but I was definitely under five years old because I had earrings in kindergarten. Each day when I would lay down for naptime, the posts poked the skin behind my ears and gave me ear aches - so I would remove them and place them on the floor beside my mat. Of course, I always forgot after I woke up.

I lost a lot of earrings, much to my grandmother's frustration.

Ear Piercing

My sisters and I all had our ears pierced at the same time at a salon down the street from our home on Eddie Lane in Little Rock, Arkansas. I wasn't scared at all; I was excited. I wanted earrings so bad.

My oldest sister, eight years my senior, went first. She cried like you would not believe. She screamed when the technician used the "gun" to do the piercing and cried for an hour afterward.

Now I was scared. I started crying a little bit but I really wanted the earrings, so I went ahead - expecting to feel pain like I had never felt before.


It was a small pop and poke. It was over before I even realized what had happened. The pain was nothing.

That was the first time I recognized people have different pain tolerances; that some people can handle things better than others.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Random Memory Snippets On Eddy Lane

7115 Eddy Lane, 2016
Our house, 7115 Eddy Lane, was a red brick house with a carport, a front yard, and a backyard surrounded by a chainlink fence. It also had green bushes, which we called "hedges," along the short walkway from the driveway to the front door.[Now removed]

The second house from the main street, Oak Grove Lane, our house was separated from the first house on the street by a chainlink fence covered in honeysuckles. [Now removed] We used to suck the nectar from the honeysuckles in the summer.

I loved it but I had to be careful because I was allergic to bee stings. Not deathly allergic, as in had to be rushed to the hospital for a Penicillin shot, just allergic - as in had to take Benedryl, would swell a lot (if stung on pinky, would swell to elbow), and would need to sleep for several hours. 

My mom was allergic to bees (she became deathly allergic when she got older) and my dad was allergic to Penicillin. They were scared one of their children would get both allergies. That would have been a big problem because there was no alternative to Penicillin at the time. Luckily, two of us got bee allergies and none of us got a Penicillin allergy.

To the Right

The first house on the street, the one separated by honeysuckles, which was to the right when facing our house, had an above ground pool in their backyard. A few of times we snuck over the fence and swam in it. We weren't supposed to, and the people caught us a couple of times.


Along the back of the yard was the back of the houses facing the next street over, Fairfield Drive. The house directly behind us was a family that had a daughter the same age as my oldest sister. They were friends. The mother also provided daycare and I was one of her charges. 

I hated naps. She would lay us down each day and I would lay there quietly, maybe play quietly with the bedcovers or my fingers, daydreaming - but not sleep. Sometimes she would come to the room after a while, let me get up and play in the backyard until the other kids woke up - as long as I kept quiet. 

Because our yards were separated by the chainlink fence, often she would hand me over the fence to my mom when she got home from work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Early Experiences: People With Disabilities

I was introduced to disability from birth. As a result, I never thought anything about it. It seemed just as "normal" to me as any other difference between people: hair color, eye color, skin color, height, etc.

Half a Leg

My grandfather on my father's side used crutches.

When my dad's family lived in California, before my parents even met, their car broke down on the side of the road. As my grandfather was at the back of the car, another car lost control and rear-ended his car. I think he fell asleep at the wheel. My grandfather tried to jump away, but one leg did not make it completely out of harms way - so he lost his leg from the knee down.

I was never close to my grandmother on my father's side - not sure why. She seemed so cold, we never felt comfortable with her.

Maybe she was just overly concerned with us not messing up her house, or maybe she never got over not liking my mom, or maybe she did not like kids, or maybe she just did not know how to show affection. Who knows.

But my grandfather was such a nice and happy man.

We used to sit in his lap. He would hug us, tell us jokes, and share stories. I remember him always smiling and laughing.

Monday, June 27, 2016

More Uncomfortable Childhood Life Lessons

Other lessons learned on Eddie Lane involved dishonesty, injustice, insecurity, and parenting.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents in Amity, Arkansas before I started school and during the summers. I think it was easier for my mom that I stayed with my grandparents because she was a single parent of four kids working full time.

Both my grandparents also worked sometimes. My grandfather was a handyman around town and my grandmother often worked in restaurants or the school cafeteria as a cook. She was a great cook.


My great-grandmother, on my grandfather's side, also lived in Amity. She lived in a one-floor apartment complex only for retired people. Her name was Eula but we called her "Granny."

Her husband, Andy, had died before I was born.

We used to spend a lot of time with her when my grandparents were working. When we were younger, we loved it. We could play outside because her complex was away from the main road and we knew a lot of the other retired people in the complex.

Next door to granny was Hatty Wilson. We loved to visit her. When I started doing our ancestry, I found that she might actually be the sister-in-law of Granny. I never knew that. I knew they spent time together but I also got the impression that Hatty and Granny did not like each other very much.

Granny had other grandchildren, mostly older than me, that sometimes came over. I was never close to my cousins. Granny had a record player and they sometimes left their records. I remember listening to the Beatles on a record with an apple picture on it.

Another thing we often did at Granny's was put lotion on her feet. She had really scaley feet. I knew at a very young age I never wanted to have such scaley and scratchy hard feet.

We did not mind putting the lotion on her feet for a long time, but it did get old, and we started not liking it.

One time she asked me to do it and I refused. She insisted and I refused. I told her I wanted to go home - back to my grandparent's house. She said we couldn't and again insisted I put lotion on her feet.

I decided I was going home and ran out of the house. I ran out of the apartment complex, down the long side road, and then started running up the long main road that led to my grandparent's house.

Granny, even at her advanced age, was running after me, yelling. She told a teenager on a bike she would pay him if he caught me.

A man in a pickup truck saw us, turned down one of the side roads from the main road ahead of me, and captured me.

He held me until granny caught up.

I was very mad at that man - but of course, he was actually nice because I was probably less than five years old running on the sidewalk of the major road that ran through Amity.

I am sure I got in trouble, maybe even a spanking, I don't remember. I also probably got a spanking, and definitely a stern "talking to" by my grandfather when I finally made it home that night. Again, I don't remember.

I do know I went to visit granny less often after that.

When it was time to start school, I went to kindergarten and first grade in Amity with my grandparents. 

Attending kindergarten in Amity was great. My grandparents taught me the alphabet and numbers before I even started. I really liked my teacher. Mostly I remember coloring and making crafts as well as practicing the alphabet and numbers sometimes.

My grandmother worked in the school cafeteria. I remember whenever I was sick, I would take my tray through the line to get my portions. My grandmother would meet me at the end of the line with a spoon of Robitussin. I would take my dose, then take my tray to the lunch table to eat.


My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Sutton, was different.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Children Know More Than We Think

My parents were high school sweethearts. I am not sure my mom ever got over it - her first love.

They also had a very rocky relationship. I was two when my father left, so I have no memory of when they were together, but I heard stories. Without any first-hand knowledge, I can neither confirm nor deny the stories, but most of them revolved around my dad cheating on my mom and beating her.

I do remember my mom had a broken collarbone. The official story was that she fell down some steps - years later I "heard" it was a result of one of my father's beatings.

My family, like many of my generation, and I would suggest is still true, did not explain such things to children. That is too bad - because children hear more than we think. 

Children really are sponges for what is going on around them.  When we fail to help them understand what is going around them, often erroneously assuming they "don't know" and we are protecting them from the ugliness of life, children make their own associations about situations. Children make these connections based on little or no information, and no relevant life experiences.  

The conclusions that children come to can be quite shocking and often shape their ideas about life in negative ways.

For me, the story about my mom "falling down stairs" and breaking her collarbone had two effects on my life.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Early Childhood Experiences and How They Shaped Me

I was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, but I never lived there. My dad moved our family to Little Rock while my mom was in the hospital with me. My mom and step-dad moved us from Little Rock to Alexander while I was in second grade. 

My earliest memories were when I lived at 7115 Eddy Lane in Little Rock, Arkansas - all memories before I was eight-years-old. 

Eddy Lane was a couple of blocks away from "Sin City" (Adkins Street between Oak Grove and Chico Rd via Acorn Place) - an apartment complex ("the projects") that was so dangerous police rarely responded to 911 calls - at least that was the story.

The common joke was: "You ride in on a bicycle and come out with just the handlebars."

As kids, we did not understand that, but we did fully comprehend our mom's warnings of bodily harm if we ever wondered off our street alone.

Eddy Lane was a dead-end street that had one other dead-end street connected to it, Lark Place. Most of my memories happened on these streets since we were not allowed anywhere else.

My Sweet Farrah

I remember one Christmas begging for a Farrah Faucett "barbie." I was so in love with Farrah Faucett. I watched Charlie's Angels religiously. It was my favorite show.

Looking back, I wonder why a child under eight could have been so interested in such an adult show, but I was.

I could not wait for the big day to come. I looked over my wrapped presents frantically for a box that could be "the one." When I found the shoe-box sized one, I knew I had found gold. I tore open the paper and looked at the box. I was ecstatic!

After all the excitement died down, I opened the box, took out my Farrah...

And started crying.

The Farrah Faucett doll was larger than a "Barbie" and looked nothing like my Farrah. It was quite an ugly doll, in fact. 

I was crushed. 

It was my first lesson in words - what we call things is not always true for what they are.

Learning to Fly

Before I started school and my working mom was home with me for some reason. About the time school let out (my sisters went to school a couple of miles up Oak Grove street by our house), my mom heard an ambulance going up the street toward the school. I remember her pure panic while she grabbed my arm and ran toward the school. She was worried a car had hit a child on their way home from school - she was most worried it was one of her children. She was correct that a car did hit a child - fortunately, it was not one of hers. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It Could Never Happen

While talking to my niece about the Orlando shooting, I mentioned the North Carolina bathroom law. My niece said she did not see why that was a big deal and that she did not want men using the bathroom with her.

I explained that the law was not really about bathrooms but was anti-gay sentiment wrapped in law.

I also told her transgendered people have been using the bathrooms for years without anyone noticing and without incident.

She agreed but again said she did not want men using the bathroom with her. 

I asked her if she understood that the law required people to use the bathroom of their birth gender, which is a problem for those who have had surgery, and also forces people who are now men into women's bathrooms. 

She responded that when a person has surgery to change their gender they can have all their identifications changed. 

I responded that changing identification may not include the birth certificate and that the law specifically states "birth gender" - meaning the gender listed on their birth certificates.

She responded that police were not going to be checking people's birth certificates to go to the bathroom.

I agreed. It will be based on complaints of other bathroom users. 

I described a long-term friend of mine who is female but is very tall, broad, deep-voiced, and could easily be mistaken for a man dressed as a woman - if someone was so inclined. That if my friend were to go to a bathroom in North Carolina, and another person were to "report" her to police, she could very well be required to satisfy the law by providing her birth certificate - something very few people carry around.

She again repeated that this was not likely to happen.

I asked her why was the law passed then? 

For which she had no answer.

And there is the real problem. 

I hear constantly, "That is not likely to happen." "That would never happen here." 

A few months ago, my nephew started supporting the "temporary halt for all Muslims entering the United States until we figure things out."

I reminded him that my husband, his uncle, was Muslim and currently out of the country on business. I pointed out to him that my husband, his uncle, would not be able to return home.

He responded that he was not talking about my husband.


Is that a promise?

I am not sure if people are ignorant of history, unable to make connections to larger consequences, lack empathy, are not paying attention, or are simply living in denial. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Thoughts of Suicide

I have always had mixed feelings about suicide.

In junior high school, I knew several people of different ages who either attempted or were successful in ending their lives.

Yes, junior high. Yes, the 1980s. No, that is not as unusual as we like to pretend.

Kids know what is going on even when we try to shield them from it. By not talking about uncomfortable topics, we force young people to create an understanding based only on their very limited knowledge and experience. We are doing them no favors by not adding to their information.

For me, suicide made no sense. Why would people want to end their lives?

In my mind it seemed so illogical... dead was the end. All possibilities would end. No opportunities for things to change or get better... just nothing.

But I did want to understand it. I wanted to understand it because I recognized that it must make sense on some level or so many people wouldn't be doing it.

In my naivety, I thought if I could figure it out, I would know out how to recognize the signs ... maybe I could figure out how to help them.

Unfortunately, in those days, the vast knowledge of the internet did not exist. My only options were adults and the library.

My research showed the  socially (not scientifically) espoused "reasons" for suicide (threats, attempts, successes) are many:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ramadan: Fasting While Eating

Ramadan begins. Muslims all over the world are fasting from before sunrise to after sunset. For weeks, if not months, Muslims have been sharing the countdown and messages of anticipated joy.

The most common references are about not eating and drinking during daylight hours - to which people who are not Muslim often comment, "Not even water?!!"

No, not even water.

Islam specifically allows for those facing medical conditions that require daily medication or regular ingestion of food or drink to be excused from fasting. Pregnancy and diabetes, for example.

Islam allows for other exceptions too, such as travel and any bleeding beyond a pinprick.

Exceptions, like everything in Islam, have a purpose. Medical conditions, pregnancy, bleeding, and travel (even with the easier travel of today) can tax our bodies and weaken our immune systems. God, in his mercy, does not want us to put additional pressure on our bodies when it is already under extra stress from these conditions.

But those exceptions are only for the eating and drinking part of fasting - a small part of what Ramadan fasting is all about.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Life Well Lived

While living in Arkansas in my twenties, I drove with some friends to Dallas, Texas for the weekend. Outside a restaurant where we were eating, a sumo-wrestling activity was set up on the grassy knoll nearby. We went out to see what was going on. They had set up a giant mat on the ground and had huge sumo suits people could wear. The suits had helmets that looked like the heads of sumo wrestlers - complete with the hair in a bun on top. 

Another person in my group and I decided to do it. The suit and helmet were huge - both making me a giant rolly-polly. We got on the mat and started trying to wrestle. It was hilarious. Every time I would get hit, I would lose my balance and fall over. I couldn't get up wearing the huge suit. I would roll around trying to find a way to get on my feet - which I could not even see poking out of the bottom of the suit. The other person would try to help me but I was laughing so hard it was impossible. Most of the time the other person would end up falling on top of me. Then both of us would be rolling around the mat laughing til we could hardly breathe. 

And we got it all on tape. 

Unfortunately, I misplaced the tape when I moved to Arizona. It is a fond memory of mine and I wish I still had it. 

Recently I was recounting the story to my niece. I was telling the story and laughing, really enjoying the memory.

She replied, "How could you do that? It would be so embarrassing."

That made me think. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Three Steps To A Solutions Oriented Mindset

Almost two decades ago I got married. I am originally from Arkansas and my husband is from Iraq. We met at work in Arizona. While courting, he mentioned diabetes runs in his family and his mother had died from diabetes complications. They lived in Iraq under the United Nations sanctions and insulin was considered "dual purpose" - meaning theoretically insulin could be used to make a weapon of some kind. As a result, people in Iraq were unable to get insulin and many, like my husband's mother, died as a result.

I did not know anything about diabetes at the time. No one in my family had it and I never knew anyone with it. But I had heard about the symptoms (maybe through public service announcements growing up): frequent urination, constant thirst, and cravings for sweets.

Soon after we married, I noticed my husband had these symptoms because we still worked in the same office all day. I suggested he go to the doctor and get checked out so we would know.

After a few days, he got the results back and shared them with me at the office - he had diabetes. I told him to meet with the nutritionist and then we would figure out what to do.

In the beginning, we lived with his brother and his family. When I went home from work I found everyone sad and crying. I asked my sister-in-law what happened. She replied, "You don't know?" "Know what?" I asked. "Ali has diabetes," she said. "Yes, he told me," I replied. "He's going die!" she exclaimed with tears running down her face.

Here I am... a new bride, barely a month married into a new culture, and suddenly everyone is saying my husband is going to die. Ya, this is not working for me.

I racked my brain for information. Had I ever heard diabetes was a death sentence?

After a few days, my husband met with the nutritionist who basically told him he had to eat uninteresting food for the rest of his life. I watched every night for about a week, the entire table set with plates of pasta, a variety of meats, loaves of bread, and rice... while my husband sat with a plate of salad and skinless baked chicken.  Every day.

Finally, I turned to him and said, "This is no way to live. It's better to die. There has to be another way."

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Should Traditions Trump Personal Choices?

converted to Islam in 1998. I analyzed deeply about whether I would continue to shake hands with the opposite gender before deciding to continue to do so.

The most important point being. . . it was my decision.

We live in a world where traditions, cultures, and demographics are constantly changing. People are exploring, rejecting, and adopting religious ideas, dress styles, and social interactions more than ever before.

As societies become more diverse, even without immigration, some traditions will survive and some will not. Mostly it will depend on the reasons behind the traditions and how well those ideas are articulated as valuable and relevant to an ever-evolving world.

When the Educational authorities in Switzerland recently decided to fine parents of students up to $5,000 for any student refusing to shake the hands of their teachers because two male Muslim students refused to shake hands with their female teachers, I reflected on my own evolution on this very topic.

Many people see this as yet another conflict between east and west. Some equate the refusal to shake hands with the opposite gender as a form of disrespect - indicating the refuser is following a sexist tradition of males being superior to females because, in this case, the students are male, and the affected teachers are female.

I cannot speak for these boys or their belief system, but whether Muslims shake hands with the opposite gender is not about gender equality.

It is much more common for Muslim women to not shake hands than Muslim men. If the students were girls refusing to shake hands with their male teachers, I doubt it would even have been a story. No one wants to force girls to let men touch them, not even in the west.

I am sure the Swiss had perfectly valid reasons for the tradition of students shaking the hands of their teachers at the start of each school day.

But like many traditions, I wonder if they even remember what those reasons are - or whether those reasons are still relevant today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leveraging Social Media: A Legacy Move

I spent almost ten years as a civil rights and community advocate in Arizona at a time when it was not easy, after September 11th. We were dependent upon networking at community events to collect emails for our email lists and press releases to get our messages out. Half the time we were not sure if people even opened the emails and all our hopes hinged on the mainstream media responding to our press releases - which was unpredictable. 

I was successful at getting the attention of the local as well as some national and international media. I built a solid reputation and name recognition among local communities. 

When I opened up my law firm, there was a lot of buzz around using social media to engage clients and keep companies at "top of mind." I dabbled a bit in social media for my law firm but never invested much time in it. Referrals alone have always been the driving force of my law firm's success.  I leveraged the reputation I gained as a community advocate and I have never received one client from my website or social media. 

But I firmly believe in social media. The power of social media is extraordinary. The possibilities for getting messages out on social media are limitless. 

If we had had social media as a communication forum during my advocacy years, we could have been infinitely more effective. 

Today, I will not do business with a person or business that does not have a minimum online presence - a website or LinkedIn. First, if a person or business does not have a website or LinkedIn, how do I know they are legitimate? Second, if they do not have an online presence, I know they are not living in the present reality. Why would I give my money to someone who is not living in the present and is obviously unable to recognize the future?

I blog my ideas, opinions, and tips about life and work. I then share my blog on social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I am still learning Instagram but I'm getting better.  I have readers all over the world, people who would never have found me without social media. People who send me messages of how my blogs have changed their ideas around certain topics, or even just made them think, and even those who found my writing validating because they didn't know others shared their ideas. 

I also share my travels and experiences on social media - these are legacy moves. People can live vicariously through others, be inspired to do more and see more - find out what is in the world and create a desire to experience it. Sharing what I do and see only documents my legacy - my real legacy is inspiring others. 

Social Media Is About Communication

I joined Facebook several years ago. At first, I just shared other people's messages and occasionally made nice comments. I did not share anything personal and never made controversial comments. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Litmus Test for Success

It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes. - Sally Field, actress
I grew up an "A" Nazi.  I was crushed if I did not receive an "A" for every class, a little less so if I did not receive an "A" on every assignment. My grades represented whether I had attained success.

Unfortunately, this attachment of success to an outside source can cause real problems in the real world. Tests are subjective according to the person creating and/or grading the test - obviously essays, but also multiple choice because you can often interpret the question in more than one way.

But there are no "test scores" in the real world, so we end up relinquishing the measure of our abilities and success to those around us: our peers, our supervisors, our family.

Re-evaluating the litmus test for determining my success is a lesson and skill I learned when I went to law school.
It's never too late to be what you might have been. - George Eliot, novelist
It was a "late-in-life" career change. Being a lawyer was a dream I had since childhood but I never saw it as a possibility. It was out of my socio-economic view point. No one in my family, or extended family, had ever attained a degree so advanced. No one in my family's social circle had a similar profession. I thought only rich people could afford to go to law school because one of the requirements, at the time, was no employment during the first year at least. I assumed only the well-off could afford to go to graduate school without working to pay their livings expenses.

At this later point in my life, I could afford to not work for the first year - though not all law schools require non-employment any more. 

Still, I was worried about whether I was up to the task since I had been out of school so long. I worried about whether I could compete with the much younger students who were fresh out of undergrad. I worried that I would not even take the bar exam until I was 40 years old.

Despite my worries, and with my husband's encouragement, I decided I would do it anyway.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

If You Don't Like the Conversation, Change It

Our ability to carry on doing our work . . . depends crucially on the conversations we have with each other. - Philip Streatfield, English painter
Hellen, a doctor I know, was having problems with her Home Owner's Association (HOA). An HOA is like a small government for a neighborhood. They are elected by the home owner's of the neighborhood and enforce the CC&R's - Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions - written when the community was formed and sometimes updated by the current board.

She had faced the Architectural Committee in response to a neighbor complaint concerning a shed in her back yard. A neighbor without any view of the shed had complained to the HOA board about the shed being only 2 feet from the backyard wall instead of 5 feet. He was not the neighbor sharing the wall in question.

When the HOA board failed to respond quickly enough, the neighbor notified the city of the "violation." A city inspector came out to the property and said the shed was not in violation. The city required a shed be placed on the back 1/3 of the property, which Hellen's shed was, but had no distance requirement from the backyard wall.

After repeated complaints from the neighbor, the HOA sent a notice of violation to Hellen. She replied to the complaint and attended the Architectural Committee meeting to plead her case.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Never Underestimate the Power of the Ask

When I hear somebody sign, 'Life is hard,' I am always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?' - Sydney J. Harris, Journalist
Cindy, a local business owner I had coached solution-oriented leadership strategies to, called me about a personal problem. She had been trying to help a friend of her son, both seniors in high school. The boy, "Jim" was the oldest of three children living with his "grandmother" because his mother had gone to jail. His "grandmother" was not really his grandmother. She was the grandmother of his two siblings from another father.

Being suddenly without a parent for support, and being in the top 10% of his graduating class, made scholarships a necessity and a possibility all at the same time.

He had also heard he was Native American, which would make him eligible for additional college assistance. Unfortunately, he did not have a tribal identity card nor did he know if he had ever been registered with a tribal entity.

The woman had already called the a tribal counsel and a local community college, both of which had been very helpful in telling her what documents he needed to get get his tribal card, to get into school, and to apply for several scholarships.

And that's when the real problems started.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Why Me, Why Now

So many times people told me I can't do this or I can't do that. My nature is that I don't very listen well. I am very determined, and I believe in myself. - Chantal Sutherland, model.
Whether working-for for-profit or non-profit business or even on a personal level, I have spent more than half my life in the problem solving 'business.' Sometimes I am not sure if I was born with a solutions-oriented mentality, or life events caused one to develop. My nickname among those closest to me is "the options girl." My motto has always been "there has to be a way, if only because there has to be." I have never found an obstacle that cannot be overcome, though not always the exact way I would have liked.

Through all my activities as an attorney and consultant, I kept noticing a disappointing trend. Even with all the resources available on the internet and in print to break through our barriers and overcome obstacles using different techniques and mindsets, people and events all over the world demonstrate an inability to solve problems or see problems differently. Race, culture, religion, gender, or geography make no difference.

Instead of "thinking outside the box," people just make bigger boxes. Instead of "breaking all the rules," too many don't even know what the 'rules' are - not even their own personal rules.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fundraising: Getting from Half-Full to Fully-Funded

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more; you are a leader. - John Quincy Adams, U.S. President
I recently attended a fundraiser for a non-profit focused on underprivileged children. The event included an overview of the many organizational projects and then invited attendees to sponsor a project by adding total funds for the project to an envelope. Those who did not want to sponsor an entire project could add funds to a general envelope. After giving time for donations, the keynote speaker took the stage and gave a beautiful speech - though it had absolutely nothing to do with the organization, its activities, or a invitation to support the organization.

The organization's leader reached out to me for feedback about the event after a few days. She also shared that the fundraising goal was not met. I advised her that the event was very nice and very well organized, but that I could suggest some improvements to help her get closer to the fundraising goal next time.

First, understand the role of the keynote speaker and choose one accordingly. Many times organizations invite a "popular" or "known" speaker who delivers a great speech for themselves but provides little value for the organization or its mission. Either choose a keynote speaker who has a passion or interest in your organization, or at least express an expectation that the keynote speaker give a speech that connects with your cause. The best keynote speakers will do this automatically. Unfortunately, speaker fees often put the best keynote speakers out of range of small non-profits.  Remember, while a high-profile keynote speaker can be a draw for attendees, a good keynote speech that resonates with your audience and connects to your cause is of greater value. At the very least, the speaker must encourage the attendees to support the purpose of the event - donations.

Second, be unique. Add some unusual or uncommon element to your event. No matter the size or budget of a non-profit, a solutions-oriented leader can find many options if they think creatively. Some suggestions would be: